Australia & Pacifics

Australia pays $3.7 M to help news agency though pandemic

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The Australian government on Friday announced a 5 million Australian dollars ($3.7 million) grant to the national news agency as part of pandemic-related assistance to regional journalism.

Australian Associated Press is critical to media diversity and has consistently demonstrated its commitment to accurate, fact-based and independent journalism over its 85-year history, including a strong contribution to regional news, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said in a statement.

Australian government lawyer names China in interference investigation

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia has named China in a court document as the foreign state under investigation by police in its first foreign interference investigation, though Beijing dismissed the allegation as an anti-China smear.

Ties between Australia and its biggest trading partner have been plagued over recent years by Australian complaints of Chinese interference in its politics. China has consistently denied the accusations.

First US spring flight to Antarctica aims to keep out virus

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The first U.S. flight into Antarctica following months of winter darkness arrived Monday with crews taking extra precautions to keep out the coronavirus.

Antarctica is the only continent without the virus, and there is a global effort to make sure incoming scientists and workers don’t bring it with them.

The U.S. Air Force flight left Monday from the gateway city of Christchurch carrying 106 passengers and crew, said Tony German, the U.S. Antarctic program’s representative in New Zealand.

Aussie health minister "becoming more optimistic" about coronavirus vaccine

CANBERRA, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt has said there is "genuine cause for hope and optimism" that a coronavirus vaccine will be available in the first half of 2021.

Hunt said on Sunday that he was "quietly becoming more hopeful and more optimistic" about the potential for a vaccine.

His comments came after pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca announced that stage three trials of a candidate vaccine developed by the University of Oxford have resumed.

Australia minister warns foreign journalists amid China spat

SYDNEY (AP) — A senior Australian government minister on Sunday warned foreign journalists working in the country they might come under the scrutiny of federal agencies if they provide a “slanted view” of Australian affairs.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton made the comments during a television interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp., referring to journalists reporting to “a particular community.”

Crowds rally in New Zealand's Auckland against coronavirus lockdown

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Large crowds of people rallied in Auckland on Saturday against the government’s social distancing restrictions imposed on the country’s largest city after an outbreak of the novel coronavirus last month.

Local television footage showed tightly packed crowds, with many people not wearing masks, with estimates of the attendance varying in reports between a thousand and a few thousand people.

Singapore Airlines to cut 4,300 jobs due to pandemic, most in its history

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Singapore Airlines Ltd (SIAL.SI) said on Thursday it would cut 4,300 positions, or around 20% of its staff, due to the debilitating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on demand in the largest job losses in its history.

The airline said after taking into account a recruitment freeze, natural attrition and voluntary departure schemes, the potential number of staff affected would be reduced to around 2,400 in Singapore and overseas.

New Zealand election campaign starts, Ardern seeks mandate

(Reuters) - New Zealand’s general election campaign began on Sunday, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern seeks to ride popularity for the nation’s COVID-19 response and compassionate handling of a massacre at two mosques to a revived mandate.

Parliament was dissolved in a brief ceremony, the official start of campaigning for the Oct. 17 election. In August, Ardern delayed the poll by a month as Auckland, with nearly a third of New Zealand’s 5 million people, was in lockdown due to a coronavirus resurgence.

Australia's COVID-19 epicenter extends hard lockdown till late September

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia’s coronavirus hot spot state of Victoria on Sunday extended a hard lockdown in its capital Melbourne until Sept. 28, as the infection rate has declined more slowly than hoped.

“We cannot open up at this time. If we were to we would lose control very quickly,” State Premier Daniel Andrews told a televised media conference on Sunday.

The hard lockdown was ordered on Aug. 2 in response to a second wave of infections, that erupted in Melbourne.

Australian Senator raises human rights abuses in India

Canberra; 03 Sep 2020 (UMMN):  A week after India's CAA figured in a NSW assembly motion, another Senator spoke about India's human rights record in the Federal Parliament on 3 September 2020.

Greens Senator Larissa Waters gave a speech on 3 Sep 2020 in the Australian parliament about global human rights abuses in which she raised human rights abuses in India, and harsh and discriminatory measures in Kashmir. Her speech can be read via the link below;

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